Gov. Andrew Cuomo took to the subway Tuesday morning to announce new state-lead mosquito prevention measures throughout the MTA system.
He and MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast watched from the tracks of the R train’s Whitehall Station as larvicide was tossed into the soupy brown water that pooled between the rails.
“We’ve said that we’ll be taking the Zika virus seriously,” Cuomo said. “It’s primarily a problem in southern parts of the country … but it’s something we should be paying attention to.”
Prendergast said his agency will make an extra effort to increase drainage on tracks. Oftentimes dirt and grime block some of the 13 million gallons of water that flows through the subway system from entering the nearby drains.
But, at this point, he said mosquitos haven’t proliferated into MTA system.
“We haven’t experienced a lot of,” said Prendergast. “It has not been a problem.”
The state’s Health Department will be partnering with the MTA to target 36 “priority” locations in subways to filter water and place traps to monitor the mosquito population.
The MTA collaboration is part of Cuomo’s six-point Zika Action Plan, instituted in March, which is designed to take a proactive approach at combating the virus in the state.
There are 70 different species of mosquitos in New York State. The Zika virus, which has been confirmed to be transmitted sexually, is primarily transmitted mostly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito in South and Central America. That breed represents about 3% to 5% of New York’s mosquito population.
Thus far, there have been 537 confirmed cases of Zika statewide, according to Cuomo’s office. The majority of which, 532 cases, were travel-related. Five were sexually transmitted. In total, 414 cases of Zika have been found in New York City
Cuomo’s plan includes a blanket distribution of larvicide across the state and Zika Protection Kits to pregnant women at pre-natal centers; the launch of a public awareness campaign and emergency response plans should it be confirmed that Zika has been transmitted locally.
“I can’t stress enough the fact that this is all about prevention,” said state Health Department Commissioner Howard Zucker. “It is true that we are in the middle of a global epidemic. Yes, it is true that there is a lot more to learn about the virus. But here in New York, we are aggressively fighting back and working hard to protect all the residents here.”
Those looking for more information can call the state’s Zika helpline at 888-364-4723.